PORTLAND, Ore. – Multnomah County Chairwoman Marissa Madrigal said Tuesday that once the state’s ban on gay-marriage is overturned, the county will begin issuing marriage licenses.
Lawyers for Multnomah County told a judge, who is hearing a lawsuit that seeks to overturn the ban, that the county supports the plaintiffs in the case.
“Multnomah County joins the Plaintiffs of both cases in asking this Court to carefully consider the constitutionality of Oregon laws prohibiting same-sex marriage and then strike them down,” the county argued in a court document. “For many years, Multnomah County has taken the position that state laws excluding same-sex couples from marrying are discriminatory and unconstitutional.”
Madrigal also submitted her own statement to the court saying:
“It is heartbreaking for me personally, for many County employees, and for many residents of this County, that Multnomah County cannot issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. I know from my own experience as a marriage license recipient in Multnomah County that marriage has conferred important legal and social benefits on myself, my husband and our two children. I believe there is no lawful reason to deny same-sex couples the benefits, legitimacy and security that marriage provides. Multnomah County has no second class citizens.”
She also added that she will “swiftly authorize the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples when Multnomah County receives clear direction from the courts, the electorate, the Legislature, or the Attorney General that it is legal to do so.”
The county's declaration comes after state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said almost two weeks ago that she will not defend against the lawsuit and, thus, the state's ban on gay marriage. Oregon is now among at least five other states that have declared it won’t defend their bans on gay marriage.
"Because we cannot identify a valid reason for the state to prevent the couples who have filed these lawsuits from marrying in Oregon, we find ourselves unable to stand before (the federal judge) to defend the state's prohibition against marriages between two men or two women," Rosenblum said during her news conference at the state Capitol announcing her decision.
Her decision comes after a federal judge decided to consolidate the lawsuit that alleges Oregon's 2004 voter-approved ban violates the U.S. Constitution.
While supporters of gay marriage celebrated Rosenblum’s announcement, opponents said the attorney general is shirking her duties as the top lawyer in her state.
"She swore an oath of office that she would enforce all the laws, not just those she personally agrees with," said Brian Brown, the president of National Organization of Marriage. "Ms. Rosenblum is dead-wrong in her conclusion that the amendment cannot be supported by rational legal arguments."
The Associated Press contributed background to this story.